EDITORIAL: New surveyor should push for reform

2014-01-08T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: New surveyor should push for reform nwitimes.com
January 08, 2014 12:00 am  • 

The new Lake County surveyor should focus on the office's main priorities and do as much as possible to remove politics from that office.

The political scandal surrounding former Surveyor George Van Til, who awaits sentencing on public corruption charges, continued as late as last week with allegations about renewed FBI interest in that office.

That office should be relatively boring. That is, it should be so distanced from the political scene that no one would even think to connect it with an FBI investigation.

There's a legitimate need for this office. The surveyor is heavily involved in bringing about drainage improvements, maintaining section corners and overseeing the availability of geographic information systems data and other digital maps, along with other duties.

Although this is important work, let's face it: It's a bureaucracy. It's all about implementation of policy, not about setting policy. In an ideal world, the surveyor position would be appointed, not elected.

Until that local government reform happens, though, the surveyor will still be elected.

But that shouldn't stop new Surveyor Bill Emerson Jr. from distancing his office from the political scene.

Emerson's reforms also should include setting high ethical standards for himself and his employees.

That includes pressing for the county to join the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission. The Lake County Council needs to override its attorney's objections and sign up.

Council attorney Ray Szarmach told council members last month the code is too vague for the county to adopt as law and survive a constitutional challenge. We disagree.

The code sets values for the units of local government in Northwest Indiana to follow. The commission assists with training aimed at guiding employees, elected officials and appointees in how to respond in scenarios when their ethics might be tested.

It's up to each unit of government, however, to set up its own ethics adjudication system.

Lake County's new surveyor must press the council to join the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission and start cleaning up county government.

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